Frequently Asked Question

What should I think about before taking a pledge?

Answer

We believe The Giving What We Can Pledge is a good choice for most people reading this, given how comparatively well off those of us in the rich world are — for example, someone earning $30,000 USD post-tax a year is in the richest 4.7% of the world’s population. However, we do think anyone considering The Giving What We Can Pledge should carefully reflect on how it will interact with other situations in their lives:

Using money to free up time

  • If you can do something very beneficial with your time, it may be better to spend money to save yourself time (by buying a dishwasher instead of hand-washing dishes, taking faster modes of transit, etc.) rather than donating it.
  • Consider whether your likely budget would allow you to spend a reasonable amount of time on the things you consider most valuable.

Temporary financial constraints

  • If you're interested in starting a business, you may need to save up money to cover expenses during the early stages. In this case, the Founders Pledge may be a better fit (because the donation would happen upon a successful exit, rather than year by year). But see also one entrepreneur's experience with taking The Giving What We Can Pledge and then founding a startup.
  • If you're currently a student (and thus only committing to donate 1% of your spending money if you pledge), consider whether you will soon be paying off student loans. Depending on repayment policies in your country, you may find money is tighter after finishing your studies, and it may be a challenging time to give 10%.
  • There is some flexibility in the timing of donations (for example, you could donate less than 10% for a few years and make it up afterwards), so you may find that you’re able to make The Pledge work even when your income fluctuates.

Health

If you or a loved one’s health situation requires resources, time away from work, uncertainty about future expenses, and so on, you may find that a consistent pledge doesn't work well. Perhaps it makes sense to make a conditional plan: an intention to donate a given percent in years when one’s medical situation is better, and to give less or not at all in harder times.

Investing in your future ability to help

In some cases, spending now will let you help more later by increasing your eventual skills or earnings.

  • Saving money in order to afford further study, unpaid internships, and the like may decrease your ability to pledge now but increase your long-run career capital. (However, you can also consider applying for academic scholarships or career transition grants like Open Philanthropy's funding program for early-career individuals interested in improving the long-term future.)
  • In addition to the value of your physical and mental health for its own sake, prioritising your health now may allow you to do more good in the future.

While there are situations like these in which pledging at least 10% of income might not be suitable, people from many walks of life have also found it to be a good way to commit to building the kind of world they want to see. Many of us, after realising how rich we are compared to the world average, have welcomed The Giving What We Can Pledge as a tool for giving back and for encouraging others to do the same.

If you find that The Giving What We Can Pledge isn’t a good fit for you at this time, you might consider taking a Trial Pledge as a more flexible option.

Still have questions?

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